Snowy mountains and morning fog at Denali of Mt McKinley, Alaska

When's the best time to visit Alaska?

Bri Bleiwas

Contributing writer

Alaska is a beautiful state with plenty to offer. With national parks, historic downtown areas, and a rich Native culture, a trip to any of Alaska's remarkable destinations is bound to be filled with excitement.

If you’ve never been to Alaska, it’s time to add it to your travel bucket list.

When planning any trip, it’s important to determine when you want to go. Some destinations are better to visit during certain times of the year than others.

When visiting Alaska, you’ll want to keep the weather in mind, since some experiences can only be had under the right weather conditions.

The best time to visit Alaska will depend on what you want to do there. We’ve selected two seasons that offer the most fun activities for both locals and tourists alike.

Regardless of which one you choose, you’re in for the trip of a lifetime.

A boat in the water near Haines City, Alaska

Summer in Alaska

They call Alaska the “Land of the Midnight Sun” for a reason - due to its high latitude, the sun doesn’t set for long in the summer. Take advantage of these long daylight hours by spending time outdoors.

Alaska is known for its gorgeous parks, Denali National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park. The best time to visit them is during the summer, since roads are not likely to be blocked off by snow.

Both parks have some hiking trails that you can explore during the summer. At Denali National Park, there aren’t many trails because the park aims to provide a mostly wilderness environment, but some of your options include the Savage Alpine Trail and Gorge Creek Trail.

A lake reflecting a mountain in Alaska in summer

Kenai Fjords has a similar setup with some trails in the Exit Glacier Area, like the Harding Icefield Trail.

To learn more about the national parks, you can attend a ranger-led program. These programs include interpretive talks, day hikes, and more.

During the summer months, Kenai Fjords National Park operates boat tours. Much of the park is only accessible by water, so these tours make it easy to see as much of it as possible.

Don’t forget your camera to capture photos of the birds and marine mammals!

Denali National Park offers narrated bus tours to help you learn about the park as you observe wildlife. Choose between the natural history tour and tundra wilderness tour, each offered from May-September.

The aurora in Fairbanks, Alaska, during winter

Winter in Alaska

While Alaska gets very cold in the winter, people visit during this time of year to see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Whether you’d prefer to play outside or stay indoors, there are plenty of fun things to do during this time of year.

Tour companies in Alaska provide access to many different winter activities. In many Alaskan cities, you can go dog sledding. Sledding tour companies usually offer excursions ranging from an hour long to a couple of hours.

You can also take a tour to see the Northern Lights instead of hunting for them on your own. The best place to see this natural phenomenon is Fairbanks. If you’re looking for a Northern Lights tour in Fairbanks, try some of these.

The Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska

A favourite pastime in Alaska is ice fishing, and you can give it a try by purchasing an ice fishing excursion package from any of these companies. It may be cold outside, but that shouldn’t stop you from exploring Alaska’s great outdoors!

If you’d like to experience Alaska in the winter without standing in the cold all day, you can try an indoor activity.

Many of Alaska’s museums are open throughout the winter, like the Alaska State Museum in Juneau and the Anchorage Museum in Anchorage. Visiting museums is a great way to connect with Alaska’s history and culture during your trip, so don’t overlook these educational attractions.

Mendenhall Glacier Viewpoint with Fireweed in bloom in Juneau, Alaska

Why Not Spring or Fall?

You may be wondering why you shouldn’t visit Alaska during the spring or fall. The weather during these seasons doesn’t allow for many attractions to be open.

Entrances may be closed at the national parks, and not every activity will be offered (including the bus and boat tours mentioned in this article).

You also won’t be able to see the Northern Lights, as this is a winter phenomenon that requires darkness.

On the other hand, when you visit Alaska in the summer or winter, there are plenty of things to see and do. From museums to parks, you’re bound to create memories at the state’s many attractions.

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Bri Bleiwas

Author - Bri Bleiwas

Bri is a New Yorker living in Oregon who loves dogs and writing. She also enjoys traveling and has been to Austin, Finland, Orange County, and many other places. In her spare time, she bowls and makes crafts with her Cricut.

Last Updated 15 December 2022

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